Back to school is coming. I see it slowly emerging in every mega store I go into. Are you planning to do some clothes shopping for kids as they go back to school? I’ve gathered 6 thrifty tips for back to school clothes shopping just for you!
As a kid, I remember going back to school clothing shopping in the Sears kid’s department. We shopped the clearance racks. I liked my clothes and felt good in them even if they were a season behind.
Now a days there are some great places out there that you can get back to school clothes that will actually be stylish and really thrifty. If you know where and how to look, you can probably find school uniform clothing in unexpected thrifty places too! Here are my tips for getting your kid back to school in style without breaking the bank!
1. Make Sure It’s Cool
Kids are kids and often appearance does matter to them. Especially your tweens. Before you get started shopping, check out the ads and websites of stores like Justice, Kohls, Target & Macy’s. Using your smartphone, take pictures of outfits advertised that you like and then pick out similar look-alike items from the retail, resale or thrift stores you plan to shop at.
2. Use What You Have-Throw a Fashion Show Challenge Party
If money is tight and buying new clothes is out, try to use it to your advantage. Let your kids become fashion designers. This could be something that you and your daughters do together. You could make this a sleep over thing for your girls and have them bring friends over to help. Ultimately your goal is to get your kids to design outfits they love and feel good in before school starts from their own closets.
The challenge is to make 7-10 awesome outfits using what they have already. Each time they come out to display their combo, take a picture. After the party, have the pictures printed and have your kids design a fashion board for their room out of poster-board or foam board. They can hang it on the inside of their closet door to help them remember all the awesome outfits they came up with. This will help prevent the “I have nothing to wear!” comments in the mornings as you hustle to get out the door.
Here is my “sample” fashion board. I realize no elementary age kid or tween would wear my wardrobe, but I just wanted to give you a visual of what it might look like if your kid made a “fashion board” for their own closet.
If your kid doesn’t have a creative bone in their body, print out pictures from your local kids fashion ads and challenge them to make “copy-cat” outfits from the images. (If your son is into his clothing and appearance you could obviously do the same thing with him).
3. Kids Consignment Sales
Kids consignment sale season happens two times a year. Generally in the spring and in the fall. You will get some really great deals on gently used kids clothing. If the sale is well-organized like the one I participate in, the clothing goes through a piece by piece quality check before it hits the racks. I’ve had pieces I was selling pulled at check in with small stains I didn’t even see when prepping. That’s why I know I’m going to get good stuff.
You should be able to get kids size clothing and shoes from newborn to tween at these sales at 50-70% off retail prices. In my area there are enough sales that I hit 2 every week for about 1 month. Saturday’s are usually half price days and that’s when I really rack up. Want to know where to find them in your area? Check out Consignment Mommies website.
Thrifty Tip- Sell your kids old clothes at the sale and use the money you make to buy them new ones from the sale. Many of my friends with elementary age kids, cloth their large families this way.
4. Resale Retail Stores or Thrift Shops
One of the trendiest spots to get tween to teen clothing are re-sale stores like Plato’s Closet. These stores pay cash upfront for trendy clothing and then re-sell it. Sometimes they have super sales around back to school time where you can stuff a bag and get a percentage off all the clothes you can fit in it. This may be a good place to start if your kid is warming up to second-hand clothes and you plan to take them with you.
Thrifty Tip- Bring a few boxes of your teens old clothes to sell to get some cash in hand to spend on items.
You know your kid. If they would be mortified to go to back to school clothes shopping at a thrift store, let it go.
Take my advice from above, take pictures of what they like and find look-alikes on the thrift store isles all by yourself. There was a time in my young tween life when going to Goodwill with my mom was extremely stressful because I didn’t want anyone to see me shopping there and give them one more thing to make fun of me about. My brain at the time just didn’t understand money and the thrifty lifestyle. That’s okay because my mom was a living example of frugality and by high school I learned to love thrift stores because I could make my own cool style that no one else had. My own kind of “Pretty In Pink” high school experience.
5. Shop Retail Stores During Semi-Annual Sales
Retail stores have semi-annual sales in the summer and after Christmas. These are the BEST times to get new clothes ridiculously cheap. For example, I just checked out the Justice web site and they are doing 80% off clearance, 40% everything you buy + and extra 20% off regular price until July 14th. In other words, don’t wait until August and September to go clothes shopping if you want really cheap deals.
Thrifty Tip- Watch the Target store ads for really cheap back to school basics. They might include a mobile coupon that you could stack with a printable Target coupon that you could stack with a % off from Target Cartwheel. (That stacks with your 5% off debit Red Card just for good measure).
6. Plan a Minimal Wardrobe
I’ve been seeing pins on Pinterest lately where people build a 15 outfit wardrobe around 16-ish pieces. It usually involves 5 blouses, 3 pants, 2 pair of shoes, 2 scarves, 2 Jackets/Vests, 1 Dress, 1 Cardigan.
Several that I love are posted by Melissa at Everyday Savvy.com and created from Target. I’m totally ready to do this in the fall. See her amazing savings post and pictures here. Melissa indicated in the comments section below that she plans to make some of these really cool minimal wardrobe templates for kids! I’m pretty excited to see how they come out in the next few weeks so be sure you check back with Everyday Savvy in the weeks ahead.
Less stuff means less laundry and less saying, “I have nothing to wear”. This is another spot where you could buy the basics new and have your child design the outfits like in tip #1. Take pictures of the outfits and hang them up in the child’s closet for daily outfit inspiration!
I hope that these 6 thrifty tips for back to school clothes shopping give you a little extra back to school shopping strength. Remember, it doesn’t have to always be new when you get creative. It doesn’t always have to be expensive when you get thrifty.
Kim Anderson is the organized chaos loving author behind the Thrifty Little Mom Blog. She helps other people who thrive in organized chaos to stress less, remember more and feel in control of their time, money, and home. Kim is the author of: Live, Save, Spend, Repeat: The Life You Want with the Money You Have. She’s been featured on Time.com, Money.com, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Day, and more!